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January 9, 2015

Celebrating Dr. King's Life: Do Something

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    During my educational career of almost 30 years, I have found that when you get to the middle school classroom, the "cuteness" factor takes a nosedive. I am not talking about appearances or personalities, but rather those cute holiday activities or crafts that seem to live on in elementary school.

    When you teach in middle school, you have to dig deeper to find creative ways to celebrate special occasions other than writing essays or entering a reading/writing contest. This is the case for me as I begin to plan for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Last year, I was able to connect the theme of social issues with honoring Dr. King using the mentor text, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, I knew that I wanted to do something a little different, but not quite sure what. That all changed for me as I returned to school from winter recess. Little did I know that the seed had been planted in my post from last year, "Celebrating Dr. King’s Legacy."

    Until this week, I had never really paid attention to the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge. When I saw a bulletin board in my school's hallway titled, Take the Kindness and Justice Challenge, I became curious. I inquired as to who created the bulletin board and found out that it was one of the guidance counselors, Lin Avellino. She was gracious enough to allow me to photograph the board for this post. It was her bulletin board that gave me a sense of direction for how I wanted to honor Dr. King with my students.

     

     

    What is the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge?

    According to a February 2001 article from Sparkaction.org:

    "In January, more than 4 million students and 15,000 educators honored the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in the fourth annual Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge, a national education initiative that encourages students in grades K-12 to perform acts of kindness (helping others) and acts of justice (standing up for what is right) for two weeks in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday.

    Each day during the program, young people learned the values taught by Dr. King — justice, compassion, responsibility, non-violence and moral courage — and put these values into practice by performing positive acts in their schools, homes and communities.

    The success of the Kindness & Justice Challenge is a fitting tribute to Dr. King's life and legacy. He believed passionately in the power of young people to make a difference, and he showed us that young people can be visionaries and powerful agents of change.”

    So with that in mind…

    Connecting the Challenge to Curriculum

    We are currently exploring informational text in both reading and writing workshop. The really cool thing is that the work in this unit is centered on the idea of teen activism. My students will be responsible for researching a topic (bullying, the environment, protecting animals, etc.) that they feel they can champion. This is such a "light bulb moment." The current units of study support the idea of my students participating in the challenge.

     

    Getting Started

    I introduced the challenge using DoSomething.org. Using my students’ input, I created the anchor chart pictured below to support and connect Dr. King’s efforts to the challenge.

     

     

    I surveyed the students to see what community issue they would like to rally around. Again, I used the Do Something website to assist in generating topics. From our discussion of the various issues we could address, the students connected to one that is very dear to me. I told them about how I used to visit my father when he was in a nursing home and how there were some senior citizens that did not have any visitors. My students realized that one of the activities listed on the site that they could very quickly be involved in would be to create holiday cards for seniors at one of the local nursing homes. They decided to duplicate the Love Letter Project. I was very touched by their compassion to bring a smile to someone they don't know and happy that this activity was the launch of their taking on the challenge.

     

     

    Next Steps

    1. Determine with the students what type of impact they would like to make

    2. Create a timeline for implementation

    3. Celebrate the process

    I am preparing for some bumps in the road. My biggest concern is that this initiative be student-driven. I will be guiding and advising along their journey, but the work must come from them. I look forward to sharing our journey as we take on the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge!

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — Looking for ideas to celebrate the life of Dr. King? Go to Scholastic's Martin Luther King Jr.: Everything You Need for activities and lesson plans. Also, follow bloggers Christy Crawford, Brian Smith, and Kriscia Cabral as they share their ideas to celebrate the life Dr. King. 

    As always, please share — I look forward to reading your ideas that are designred to make our lives easier.

     

    During my educational career of almost 30 years, I have found that when you get to the middle school classroom, the "cuteness" factor takes a nosedive. I am not talking about appearances or personalities, but rather those cute holiday activities or crafts that seem to live on in elementary school.

    When you teach in middle school, you have to dig deeper to find creative ways to celebrate special occasions other than writing essays or entering a reading/writing contest. This is the case for me as I begin to plan for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Last year, I was able to connect the theme of social issues with honoring Dr. King using the mentor text, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, I knew that I wanted to do something a little different, but not quite sure what. That all changed for me as I returned to school from winter recess. Little did I know that the seed had been planted in my post from last year, "Celebrating Dr. King’s Legacy."

    Until this week, I had never really paid attention to the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge. When I saw a bulletin board in my school's hallway titled, Take the Kindness and Justice Challenge, I became curious. I inquired as to who created the bulletin board and found out that it was one of the guidance counselors, Lin Avellino. She was gracious enough to allow me to photograph the board for this post. It was her bulletin board that gave me a sense of direction for how I wanted to honor Dr. King with my students.

     

     

    What is the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge?

    According to a February 2001 article from Sparkaction.org:

    "In January, more than 4 million students and 15,000 educators honored the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in the fourth annual Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge, a national education initiative that encourages students in grades K-12 to perform acts of kindness (helping others) and acts of justice (standing up for what is right) for two weeks in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday.

    Each day during the program, young people learned the values taught by Dr. King — justice, compassion, responsibility, non-violence and moral courage — and put these values into practice by performing positive acts in their schools, homes and communities.

    The success of the Kindness & Justice Challenge is a fitting tribute to Dr. King's life and legacy. He believed passionately in the power of young people to make a difference, and he showed us that young people can be visionaries and powerful agents of change.”

    So with that in mind…

    Connecting the Challenge to Curriculum

    We are currently exploring informational text in both reading and writing workshop. The really cool thing is that the work in this unit is centered on the idea of teen activism. My students will be responsible for researching a topic (bullying, the environment, protecting animals, etc.) that they feel they can champion. This is such a "light bulb moment." The current units of study support the idea of my students participating in the challenge.

     

    Getting Started

    I introduced the challenge using DoSomething.org. Using my students’ input, I created the anchor chart pictured below to support and connect Dr. King’s efforts to the challenge.

     

     

    I surveyed the students to see what community issue they would like to rally around. Again, I used the Do Something website to assist in generating topics. From our discussion of the various issues we could address, the students connected to one that is very dear to me. I told them about how I used to visit my father when he was in a nursing home and how there were some senior citizens that did not have any visitors. My students realized that one of the activities listed on the site that they could very quickly be involved in would be to create holiday cards for seniors at one of the local nursing homes. They decided to duplicate the Love Letter Project. I was very touched by their compassion to bring a smile to someone they don't know and happy that this activity was the launch of their taking on the challenge.

     

     

    Next Steps

    1. Determine with the students what type of impact they would like to make

    2. Create a timeline for implementation

    3. Celebrate the process

    I am preparing for some bumps in the road. My biggest concern is that this initiative be student-driven. I will be guiding and advising along their journey, but the work must come from them. I look forward to sharing our journey as we take on the Do Something Kindness & Justice Challenge!

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — Looking for ideas to celebrate the life of Dr. King? Go to Scholastic's Martin Luther King Jr.: Everything You Need for activities and lesson plans. Also, follow bloggers Christy Crawford, Brian Smith, and Kriscia Cabral as they share their ideas to celebrate the life Dr. King. 

    As always, please share — I look forward to reading your ideas that are designred to make our lives easier.

     

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Susan Cheyney

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